There’s A Good Reason for Why We ‘Uh’ and ‘Um’ When We Talk


Ever catch yourself saying “uhhh” too many times? Many people vow to cut back on relying on such verbal crutches once they realize they’re using them, but they’re not just filler. It seems they act as a cue of sorts for your conversational partners. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics found that listeners actively track when a speaker says “uh” to help predict what kind of word might follow.

The Power of Uh

Based on previous research, psycholinguist Hans Rutger Bosker and his team already knew that people sprinkle their speech with so-called disfluencies, the um’s, ah’s, uh’s and pauses that we often unwittingly slip into conversation. They also knew that these disfluencies usually cropped up before someone said a word that…

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Last modified: April 2, 2019

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